It is well known that the media plays a key role in influencing kids to smoke.
According to the National Cancer Institute, kids with more exposure to smoking in movies were up to twice as likely to begin smoking as other kids.
Even as parents try to talk to their kids about the dangers of smoking they continue to see smoking in movies and on TV. This is despite the fact that new movie ratings in 2007 were supposed to make most movies with smoking get an "R" rating.
That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics "recommends a ban on all tobacco advertising in all media, limitations on alcohol advertising, avoiding exposure of young children to substance-related (tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs) content on television and in PG-13- and R-rated movies, incorporating the topic of advertising and media into all substance abuse-prevention programs, and implementing media education programs in the classroom."
And although the AAP has come out against some high-profile movies with smoking, such as Rango and Skateland, a new report from the CDC goes even further.
The report, "Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies - United States, 2010," found 595 youth-rated smoking incidents (use or implied use of a tobacco product by an actor). These include movies with G, PG, and PG-13 ratings.
Among these youth movies, 25 of 88 movies had tobacco incidents in 2010. While that is certainly better than 2005, when 57 of 104 youth movies had actors who smoked, it still leaves something to be desired if you want to take your kids to a movie and not subject them to depictions of smoking.
Progress is being made, but many movies, especially from companies without specific antitobacco policies, still put out a lot of youth movies with smoking. Hopefully we make continue to make progress towards the recommends of the World Health Organization, AAP, and other experts who recommend that almost all movies with smoking get an "R" rating.
Personally, when taking my kids to the movies, I would rather not have to wonder what effect an actor smoking is going to have on my kids. I have enough to worry about already.